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Wu Hongbo (right) is sworn in to his new role as the new United Nations undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, at UN headquarters, alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Monday. Shen Hong / Xinhua
Chinese diplomat Wu Hongbo was sworn in as the new United Nations undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, at UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
Wu was sworn in to his new role by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon along with Ban's senior management team.
Wu said his priority in heading the agency, known as DESA, is to help implement the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals which include ending extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. All 193 UN member states have agreed to try to achieve the ambitious MDGs by the year 2015.
"What happens after 2015 remains a key question," said Wu, adding that development issues are still the most pressing for the international community.
"One of the priorities on my work agenda, despite just taking office, is that I will lead my team to help implement the MDGs for the last three years before its deadline and propose a framework for the follow-up post 2015," said Wu.
Wu said development issues have taken on a broader meaning, and the MDGs are now becoming more closely integrated into sustainable development goals.
"Now (development goals) include economic, social and environmental issues. Effectively dealing with these issues will help build a better world for our future generations," he said.
The veteran diplomat also sees challenges in solving these pressing issues.
"There are some big challenges to integrate the MDGs and sustainable development goals because the latter goes far beyond the MDGs," said Wu.
"One thing we have to do is to make sure developing nations understand the integration of the two (MDGs and sustainable development goals) will still protect both their interests and the interests of the least developed countries," said Wu.
Wu is the successor to Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang who had led the department since 2007. Sha recently chaired the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 190 countries agreed on a plan to achieve a set of sustainable development goals and to promote a global "green economy".
Zhu Zhiqun, professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, said Wu is "fully qualified and competent" for this role because of his diverse background serving as an ambassador to both developed nations, such as Germany, and developing nations, such as the Philippines, in addition to working at China's Foreign Ministry.
"Wu's background and first-hand experience in development issues will be helpful for him as he leads UN efforts to implement the consensus and program plans reached at the Rio+20 development summit," Zhu said.
"Wu's appointment, though succeeding another Chinese, is significant and suggests that China will continue to have a voice at key international organizations as China becomes a major player in international politics and economics," said Zhu. "In fact, the World Bank, the IMF, the WHO and other international organizations are likely to have more Chinese faces at the top leadership level in the future."
The Chinese diplomat has more than 30 years of high level experience, including close collaboration in international conferences and with multilateral organizations, and has been involved in China's contribution to the implementation of the UN Conventions on Environment and Development as well as China's report on its progress toward the MDGs.
Wu is expected to "play a key role in working with member states in formulating the UN Development Agenda beyond 2015", said a statement on the UN website after Wu's appointment was announced in May.
Wu said it is quite a transition for him personally to shift from being a Chinese diplomat to an international civil servant to serve the UN.
"In my previous jobs, my colleagues were all Chinese, but now I have colleagues from different parts of the world," said Wu.
"The goal of my work changes, too - it changes from serving my country to serving the international community, which of course includes protecting the interests of China," he said.
"There is no conflict between the two."
(China Daily 08/08/2012 page23)